Photo essay: Clouds on Table Mountain

Photo essay: Clouds on Table Mountain

On any day, Table Mountain is a sight to behold, but when its famous tablecloth rolls in, carried by the good Cape Doctor (southeasterly winds), Cape Town’s mighty mountain truly becomes majestic. Have you ever wondered what causes this beautiful natural phenomenon?

image Photo courtesy Globe Trodden

According to EkayaSolutions, the tablecloth is part of an orographic cloud formation, which normally forms during the summer months when Cape Town’s south to southeasterly pushes moist air against the mountain’s slopes. The air is forced to rise and, as it climbs it cools, causing the relative humidity to increase. The moisture then condenses to form the world-famous tablecloth.

image Photo courtesy Alternate Perspective

Often, the tablecloth will dissipate when it rolls over the other side of the mountain. This happens when the cloud meets warmer air and the humidity decreases, reversing the whole formation process.

image Photo courtesy david.gill12

There is also a legend which tells a very different tale about the tablecloth’s origin – the story of Van Hunks and his competition with the Devil. According to the myth, Van Hunks was a Dutch pirate who lived a life of villainy sailing the high seas before he retired in the Cape.

image Photo courtesy lilysilvery

One of his favourite pastimes was to sit under an ancient tree on Table Mountain and smoke his pipe. One day he was approached by a cloaked stranger, who challenged him to a smoking competition. Proud and confident of his pipe-smoking abilities, Van Hunks accepted, and ended up defeating the man.

image Photo courtesy CondorM1

The stranger took off his hood, revealing himself to be the Devil, and the two vanished in a puff of smoke. Legend has it that to this day, the Devil of Devil’s Peak and Van Hunks continue their challenge, each time obscuring the top of Table Mountain with their pipe smoke as they try out-do one another.

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